Friday, November 1, 2013

The Book of Ruths.

"Beware of the woman with no woman-friends. For reals."

~ Kimberly Manning

I will never forget the morning I awoke after Deanna passed away. I just lay there spread eagle on my back and staring at the ceiling. I blinked my eyes and then looked from side to side without even moving my head or my body. The room looked like it always looked in the morning. The sun was hitting the floor in the same places and the socks I'd fallen asleep in had been kicked off and shoved to the bottom of the bed like usual. I wondered if, just maybe, all of this was a bad dream.

Then I heard something buzzing on the nightstand. I rolled toward the sound and spotted my cell phone plugged into the power strip and sitting face down. The clock behind it read 6:23 a.m. I tried to tell myself that a text message this early could be related to a patient. I mean, technically, it could. Which would make perfect sense if Deanna not being here was all a horrible nightmare, right?

Just as I reached for the phone, it vibrated again with another text message. And then again. When I pressed the button to see the screen, it was covered with text messages. Before I could even swipe the front and enter the passcode, it gyrated another two times. It became apparent to me that this wasn't a dream at all. This was my new reality.


That part isn't so much what I'm reflecting on this morning. Instead I'm thinking of that screen covered with those messages and from whom they came. I will tell you: My women-friends. Okay, now in all fairness to my dear, dear men-friends, I did hear from them, too. But the first ones to reach out to me--to call me, to see me, to hug me? My women-friends.


That? That is making me cry this morning. It is because there was nothing I wanted more than to be surrounded by my women-friends. Or, better yet, my sisterfriends as I've always called them. It goes without saying that I wanted to be with my family but my sisterfriends? Damn, I needed them. Damn, I did. I didn't even know how much I did, but I did. And they came through. Physically and virtually, they did.

I've said this here before but it bears repeating. Women need women to survive. They do. And every person who reads this blog knows how much I love my husband and my father and my brother and my boys. They are necessary components to my life being rich and good but for me to be my very best human being, they are not enough. Women need women. In good times and bad times, we do. But let me tell you -- when the darkness falls like it did for me in November of 2012? I cannot even begin to explain to you how glad I was that I had a cadre of really good sisterfriends fully prepared to fly to my side.

I call them my "Ruths."

Let me explain. One of my favorite books, if not my favorite book, in the bible is the Book of Ruth. It tells the story of a woman named Naomi who'd become widowed. She and her husband had two sons and, before her husband's passing, had left their hometown (Bethlehem in Judah) to raise their boys in this country called Moab. Anyways, once her husband passed, Naomi stayed there in Moab with her boys who grew into men. Her sons met and married women who were originally from Moab and everything was cool.

Well, as fickle fate would have it, both of those sons preceded not only their wives but poor Naomi in death, too. So now, here she was with her two daughters-in-law in this land that wasn't actually her original stomping ground.

You with me? Okay, cool.

So check it. The two D-I-Ls were, as the bible tells it, really good to Naomi. Before the sons died, it sounds like it was all good in the Moab hood. They probably cooked, baked and yucked it up together every chance they got. And even though they had their husbands to take care of, those women saw about Naomi since they knew that she was their husbands' mama and that seeing about your husband's mama is the right thing to do.

Yeah, it is.

But Naomi's sons' deaths were untimely. They were young and so were their wives. And Naomi had already had her darkest days so she was ready to get up out of Moab. And since Naomi was a selfless woman and not at all a "monster-in-law" she looked at those two women with the straightest, calmest expression ever and said, "Go on back to your mothers' homes. You're young and you have a whole life ahead of you, okay? Find new husbands, have kids, and all that good stuff. I'm good."

And Naomi meant that. She did. In fact, she loved those two women so much that she referred to them lovingly and repeatedly as "my daughters" and kissed them when she said those words.

Well. Those two women--whose names were Orpah and Ruth--loved Naomi right back. And yes, as a sidebar, I mean to write "Orpah" and not "Oprah." Turns out Oprah Winfrey's parents thought they were naming her after Orpah-in-the-Book-of-Ruth. . . . but they spelled it wrong. Which, you have to admit, is kind of funny.

But I digress.

So yeah. Orpah and Ruth start hysterically crying and insisting that they are going to stay with Naomi and go back to Bethlehem with her. And if this were 2013, I bet they'd say something like, "We're rocking with you, Mama Naomi!"

To which Naomi would give them both windshield wiper index finger and say, "Y'all are tripping. What are y'all gonna do with me? I'm older and ain't trying to get remarried or re-impregnated. So what I'm saying is--go live your lives. I'm gonna be fine."

And the impression I get is that Naomi was beyond childbearing age but young enough where she could mostly care for herself. So it wasn't like she was super needy or anything. That said, she'd had enough of Moab and needed to get back to the hometown.

So what happened next? Well, they kept hysterically crying but eventually Orpah tearfully tears herself away from Naomi probably like Sister did when she was leaving Miss Celie in The Color Purple. But yeah, Orpah eventually took Naomi's words to heart and headed back to her own mama's home.

But that Ruth. She was a hardheaded little thing. She ice-grilled Naomi and told her straight up:

"Where you go, I will go and where you stay, I will stay."

Or, in other words, "Hell no, I won't go."

And no matter what Naomi did, Ruth wouldn't leave her. Her loyalty was so radical that Naomi eventually realized that it was no use even trying to fight her anymore.

So the story goes on where Ruth basically goes to Naomi's hometown and gets a some really tough physical labor gig to keep the lights on. Or rather the oil lamps lit. You get the picture. And what's cool is that everybody kind of looked out for Ruth and opened doors for her since they'd heard about how she'd held down her mother-in-law when, really, nobody could have blamed her for looking out for number one.

There's more to the story but I've covered my favorite parts of it. I always look back at that story and think to myself that Orpah really did nothing wrong. She was loyal and loving and visibly upset by the idea of leaving Naomi. But Ruth's loyalty to Naomi? That was some radical shit right there. That was  I-got-yo-back on a whole 'nother level. Yeah, it was.

So the morning after I woke up on November 16, 2012, I needed some radical support, man. I heard from my Orpahs--I did. But what truly sustained me was my Ruths. Does that even make sense? I hope so.

And no. My Ruths aren't leaving their families for me or anything. But like Naomi could surely attest, my Ruths are the ones that make me feel safest and most secure. The ones that inconvenience themselves sometimes and who love like it was what they were born to do. Who love and protect instinctively without overthinking it or making me feel pressure. They stand behind you and hold you up with both hands, hiding behind your silhouette and not minding that you look strong when you really aren't.

You know what else? They make room for your other Ruths. In fact, they welcome them. And none of it feels heavy or contrived or extra or lumpy. It's not insecure or overanalyzed or uncomfortable. It just is. And that? That is what I needed that day more than anything in the world.

You know why? Because Deanna and JoLai have always been my original Ruths. And even when I haven't deserved it, they have been. I swear that I've been an Orpah more than once to both of them, yet they have always, always been radically supportive and loving. Always. And those women taught me how to be a Ruth to others. They did.

And let's be very clear one something--I am specifically not naming my mother in this -- not because she has not been all of these things to me -- but because a mother's love is otherworldly and should be ultra-radical by definition. Lucky for me, my mother's love always has been. So I guess it makes sense that my original Ruths came from that same woman, right? Yeah.

So my point is . . . losing one of my original Ruths was like losing one of my arms. I didn't even know where to start, man. I would do things that require two arms and forget. I would reach for something and be shocked back into this new harsh one-armed reality.

But that's the thing about your Ruths. They know already. It's in them to be there for you and to make you feel safe. Even when you can't articulate what you need, they are thinking ahead. Or maybe they aren't thinking. They're just being.

Sigh. I'm rambling, I know.

I know I am. But I also know that I am so effing fortunate to be able to wake up knowing that my world is filled with not just one but many Ruths. And when I think of my successes and my survival I know that were I to write it all down and put it in a book it would be just that -- The Book of Ruths. Not just one radical woman but many. And isn't that some really, really wonderful shit when you think about it? I mean, just isn't it?

Yeah, man.

Look. It's November 1, 2013. The leaves are breaking away and the sky is bluer. Green leaves have turned reddish orange and my friends are sending me text messages asking about our Homecoming weekend. Just like that morning last November, their messages remind me that Deanna dying really happened. That bands will still play and alumni will still sing fight songs. The sunlight will hit the same places and my socks will still be crumpled under the comforter. But unlike last year, this November and this Homecoming, Deanna will not be here in the flesh. She won't.

And all of it means that -- just like I did then and just like I do every day-- I am going to need my Ruths more than ever. And you know what? They'll be there. That I know for sure.


16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.   ~ Ruth 1:16 - 18

Shout out to my Ruths. You know who you are.

Happy Friday. May you recognize your Ruths. . . and never be Ruth-less. . . yeah.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . the song Isaiah was singing in the car on the way to school right after he said, "Today is November 1 and November is the month that Auntie died."  Somehow hearing his 8 year-old heartfelt rendition of this song made me feel more glad than sad and hearing those lyrics inspired this post.

Sister and Celie being separated by Mister in The Color Purple. How I imagine Ruth and Orpah when they were being separated from Naomi. . . and further underscoring the kind of radical love and loyalty it took for Ruth to remain by her side. 


  1. As always, you are spot on. Hope this comment posts...

    Maria, fellow Meharrian

  2. I know you're missing Deanna but I'm glad you're surrounded by such good Ruth's, such love. Amen.

  3. Excellent, just excellent! I always said that the Book of Ruth is such a great example of authentic relationships not just love. Thanks for sharing Kim!

  4. Awesome to be surrounded with love!!

  5. This is so touching like all of your posts that I sent text messages to my "Ruths" this morning. I'm also jealous that I'm not at the TU Homecoming today. My daughter pledged Gamma Tau. She's posted pictures of my Granddaughter in TU shirts.
    Thanks for your daily inspiration.

  6. Note to self: don't read this blog in the MARTA... Oy vey.

    aka, "Baby Ruth"

    I love you!!!

  7. Kim, thank your sis, whose my fbf, for posting your blogs-- I am able to read your inspiring words. You know the preacher lady loved this one!!!! Awesome, rendition and exegesis (smile)!
    It was really great and yes, sisters help us keep going and push us to reach our potential by cheering us on as we just get and understand each other. Keep spreading your joy!! :>)

  8. I started scrolling through your last few entries today at work, got about mid way through this one and said "i can't, i can't." I needed to read this at home, so I could savor every word and cry a little for my Ruth's, nearly all of whom live far away. Thank you for writing this, and thanks to Ms Moon who pointed me to you.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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